“People are social animals and we desire feelings of connection, belonging, and inclusion, so we try to participate when it is critical to build and maintain these relationships. Such situations sometimes require us to talk about things we really know nothing about, and what comes out is bullshit.”John Petrocelli, a psychologist at Wake Forest University, North Carolina.
Oh my lordy. Isn’t that just the truth.
How many times have you been in a bar with a bunch of blokes and they are full of it? White lies, porkies and scandalous nonsense abound from the time they were in a brothel in Bali to the time they drove it past the fairway bunker on the 8th at the country club.
Bullshit, not even DJ hits it that far.
The problem though, is that we all do it. And we don’t need a skinful before we start harping on about Higgs bozons with quantum excitement or that we once met Agent Smith in the bar at the Sydney opera house.
We are also keen to pass it forward.
Apparently, around 60% of Facebook and Twitter posts are shared without clicking through, meaning that we read just the headline and not the article. Good work people, share the love.
Whilst it might hum a little, most bullshit is fairly harmless. It generates mild benefit to the spreader and an equivalent warm and wet feeling to the recipients, most of whom will have a sensitivity meter reading available. The meter goes off and deflects any further slurries.
This is true for most of the social animal situations John Petrocelli quotes.
Increasingly though the shit is indeed spreading.
There are a number of folk pointing out that more and more people, especially those in the media and in politics, are using bullshit to sell their positions.
The US Kindle store returns over 230 titles for a search on ‘post truth politics’
Post-truth politics, a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.
It’s a thing.
And it’s a big thing because if you are a politician and you lie, a miracle happens: people believe you. And if they believe you then it wasn’t a lie, it was the truth.
So do you bullshit?
You do of course. The thing is, do you do it to feel good, be part of the group and spread it harmlessly onto a small fan or do you engage in it to influence, change people’s minds and bend them to your will.
Have a think about it because it actually matters.